Food Establishment Inspections

Definitions of words commonly used in food safety and on inspection reports.

Food Safety Definitions

Acceptable level - means the presence of a food safety hazard at levels low enough not to cause illness or injury.

Adequate supply of water - means water that is available at a volume, pressure, quality, and temperature that meets or exceeds the needs of the establishment.

Adulterated - means something unneeded has been added to or has grown in the food to contaminate it.

Approved - means acceptable to the regulatory authority based on a determination of consistency with principles, practices, and generally recognized standards that protect public health.

Backflow - means the unwanted reverse flow of contaminated water through into a potable water system. It can occur when the pressure in the potable water supply drops below the pressure of the contaminated supply and the two are linked through a cross-connection.

Bacteria - means living, single-celled microorganisms that can live either independently or as parasites dependent upon another organism for life. There are many different and useful bacteria, but some can cause food spoilage and illness. Certain bacteria form protective spores which help the bacteria survive freezing, drying, and very high temperatures. Bacteria that cause disease are called pathogenic and bacteria that produce poisons are called toxigenic.

Bare hand contact - means handling food with bare hands. Food workers must use utensils or gloves to keep their bare hands from touching ready-to-eat food. This is to keep germs that might be on the hands from spreading to food.

Blue Low Risk Factors - means issues that are not direct causes of foodborne illness. Blue Low Risk Factors include proper storage of utensils and linens, adequate lighting, lack of refrigerator thermometers, and soiled food contact surfaces. Blue Low Risk Factors, if left uncorrected however, could lead to Red High Risk Factors.

Bulk food - means food sold in various amounts from self-service storage containers or bins.

Chemical sanitizing - means a method of reducing the number of microorganisms on a surface by exposing the object to a sanitizer for a specific period of time. Common sanitizing chemicals are chlorine, iodine, and quaternary ammonium.

Clean - means making a surface clean to touch and free of visible matter.

Cleaning - means the process of removing food and other types of soil from a surface. Surfaces must first be cleaned and rinsed before being sanitized.

Cold-holding - means holding of fresh, perishable, or potentially hazardous food at internal temperatures of 41°F or colder to slow the growth of bacteria.

Consumer advisory - means the notification to a consumer that a certain menu item, usually an animal product or unpasteurized juice, is served raw or undercooked and may increase the risk for foodborne illness.

Contamination - means the unintended presence of potentially harmful substances, including biological hazards (microorganisms), chemical hazards, and physical objects.

Critical - means a requirement of the food code that, when done incorrectly, is likely to contribute to food contamination, illness, or an environmental health hazard. Also called Red High Risk Factors.

Critical control point (CCP) - means the last step where you can intervene to prevent, control, or eliminate the presence or growth of a hazard in food. Loss of control of a CCP may result in an unacceptable health risk.

Cross-connection - means any physical link through which contaminants from drains, sewers, or waste pipes can enter a clean water supply.

Cross-contamination - means the transfer of harmful substances or germs from one food product to another through direct contact, or contact with utensils, equipment, work surfaces, or employee hands or clothing. On food service inspection reports, the term is used to indicate the spread of bacteria from raw animal products to other foods.

Danger Zone - means the temperature range between 41°F and 135°F that allows bacteria to grow rapidly.

Detergents - means cleaning powders and liquids that work like soap.

Digital thermometer - means a utensil used to measure the internal temperature of foods. Digital thermometers are able to take temperatures of thin foods because the temperature sensor is at the tip of the thermometer, Compare to metal stem thermometer.

Exclude - means to prevent an ill food worker from working as a food employee and from entering a food establishment as a food employee.

FDA - means the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

FDA Model Food Code - means the set of science-based food safety guidelines for food establishments. Local, state, and federal regulators use the Food Code as a model to help develop or update their own food safety rules. Washington State used the 2009 Model Food Code to develop its most recent food rules.

Foodborne illness - means a disease that is spread to people by food or beverages. Historically called food poisoning, most foodborne illnesses are actually infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

Food-contact surface - means any surface or utensil that normally touches food.

Foodborne illness outbreak - means two or more cases of a similar illness resulting from eating a common food.

Food establishment - means a retail operation that stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends, or otherwise provides food for human consumption, such as a restaurant, school, mobile food establishment, espresso cart, temporary food vendor, or grocery store.

Food worker - means a person who works (with or without pay) in a food establishment and handles unwrapped food or may contribute to the spread of foodborne illness through contact with food products, equipment, or facilities. This does not include persons who simply assist residents or patients in institutional facilities with meals, or students in K-12 schools who periodically assist with school meal service.

Food worker card - means a Washington State Food and Beverage Service Worker's permit issued by a Washington State Local Health Jurisdiction.

Galvanized - means a steel container coated with zinc, a metal that prevents rust.

Grease trap/interceptor - means a device that separates fats, oils, and grease from wastewater.

Handwashing sink - means a sink designated for handwashing only. Handwashing sinks may not be used for mixing cleaning chemicals or for washing food or utensils. Handwashing sinks must be located in restrooms, and in convenient locations throughout the food preparation and warewashing areas.

Hazard - means a biological, physical, or chemical substance that may cause a food to be unsafe for human consumption.

Hazard, biological - means pathogenic microorganisms such as certain bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can get into food.

Hazard, chemical - means substances such as pesticides or cleaning supplies that can get into food.

Hazards, physical - means foreign objects such as staples, broken glass, or jewelry that get into food.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) - means a prevention-based food safety system that identifies and monitors specific food safety hazards that can reduce safety of food products.

Health inspector - means public employees who conduct food safety inspections of retail food establishments. They are trained in food safety, sanitation, and in public health principles and methods. Also called sanitarians, health officials, or environmental health specialists.

Heat sanitizing - means raising the temperature of a food-contact surface to kill microorganisms. Many commercial dishwashers use heat to sanitize tableware and utensils.

Highly Susceptible Population - means people who are more likely than other people to experience foodborne disease because they are:
• preschool age children, older adults, or people with weak immune systems; and
• obtaining food from a facility that provides services such as custodial care, health care, or assisted living, such as a child or adult day care center, kidney dialysis center, hospital or nursing home, or nutritional or socialization services such as a senior center.

Hot-holding equipment - means equipment designed to hold hot foods at 135°F or higher. Hot-holding equipment includes steam tables, chafing dishes, double boilers, and heated cabinets. Hot-holding equipment should not be used to reheat foods.

Imminent health hazard - means a significant threat or danger to health because of
• an inability to properly control the temperature of potentially hazardous food;
• a lack of water preventing adequate handwashing, equipment cleaning, or sanitizing;
• an emergency situation caused by accident or natural disaster, such as fire, flood, or building collapse;
• a sewage backup or sewage contamination within a food establishment; or
• an outbreak of foodborne illness linked to the food establishment.

Internal temperature - means the temperature of the internal portion of a food product. The temperature is taken with a thermometer.

Linens - means fabric items such as cloth napkins, table cloths, wiping cloths, and work garments.

Metal stem or dial thermometer - means a utensil used to measure the internal temperature of foods. Also called a dial thermometer. Because the temperature sensor is high in the stem of the thermometer, dial thermometers should only be used for thick foods. See also digital thermometer.

Microorganism - means a form of life that can be seen only with a microscope such as bacteria, viruses, yeast, and many parasites.

Mobile food unit - means a readily movable food establishment.

Monitoring - means checking, observing, or supervising in order to maintain control.

Parasite - means an organism that lives in, or on, a host organism in a way that either harms or is of no advantage to the host.

Pathogen -
means a microorganism (such as a bacterium, parasite, or virus) that causes disease in humans.

Permit - means the document issued by the regulatory authority that authorizes a person to operate a food establishment.

Person in Charge (PIC) - means the employee at the food establishment that is ultimately responsible for understanding the food safety rules and making sure the food safety rules are followed. There must be at least one PIC in the establishment at all times of operation.

Pesticide - means a chemical used to control pests, usually insects or rodents.

pH - means the measure of the acidity of a product.

Plumbing system - means the establishment’s water supply and distribution pipes; plumbing fixtures and traps; soil, waste, and vent pipes; sanitary and storm sewers; and building drains.

Potable water - means water that is acceptable for human consumption.

Potentially Hazardous Foods (PHFs) - see Time/Temperature Control for Safety Foods (TCS Foods) below.

Ready-to-Eat (RTE) food - means food that is consumed in the same state as it is sold. Examples include:
• sliced fruits and vegetables, salads
• breads, cakes, pies, tortilla chips
• cooked pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos
• sandwiches, sushi

Red High Risk Factors - mean critical food handling practices that, when not done properly, are most likely to lead to foodborne illness. Red High Risk Factors include knowledge about proper food safety practices; employee health and hygiene; food source and protection; and food temperatures.

Regulatory authority - means a federal, state, local, or tribal enforcement body or authorized representative that has jurisdiction over the food establishment.

Restrict - means to limit the activities of a food employee so that there is no risk of spreading a foodborne disease. The food employee may not work with exposed food, clean equipment, utensils, linens, and unwrapped single-service or single-use articles.

Risk - means an estimate of the likely occurrence of a hazard.

Risk factor - means one of the broad categories of food handling practices that contribute to foodborne illness outbreaks, as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The factors are: food from unsafe sources, inadequate cooking temperatures, improper holding temperatures, contaminated equipment, and poor personal hygiene.

Sanitize - means to apply heat or chemicals to a surface to reduce the number of microorganisms to an acceptable level.

Sanitizers - means chemicals, such as chlorine bleach, that kill germs to an acceptable level.

Sewage - means the discharge from toilets, urinals, basins, showers, sinks, and dishwashers carried through sewers or by other means.

Service animal - means an animal that is trained for the purpose of assisting or accommodating a disabled person's sensory, mental, or physical disability.

Shallow pan cooling method - means using a two-inch pan to cool hot food safely. Hot food is divided into several shallow pans to cool. This method works well for foods like refried beans, rice, potatoes, and chili. Food may not be more than 2” deep and must be kept uncovered until they are cold.

Single-use or single-service articles - means items such as food service gloves, plastic ketchup bottles, paper bags, foam take-out containers, toothpicks, and food wrappers that are made to be used once only.

Size reduction cooling method - means cutting large pieces of meat for cooling. Large meats, like turkeys or roasts, are sliced into pieces and placed on a tray. The trays are placed uncovered on the top shelf of the refrigerator until the food is cold. Food is covered when cold.

Spore - means a very tough, survival form of bacteria that is resistant to heat and a variety of chemicals. Only certain bacteria can produce spores.

Symptom - means how your body notifies you that you are sick. Examples of symptoms of foodborne illness include fatigue, abdominal cramping, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Temperature abuse - means when potentially hazardous food is held in the temperature danger zone of 41°F to 135°F for an unapproved amount of time. Temperature abuse of potentially hazardous foods can cause the rapid growth of bacteria, potentially causing foodborne illness.

Temperature control - means maintaining food at a specified temperature.

Temperature measuring device - means a thermometer, thermocouple, thermistor, or other device for measuring the temperature of food, air, or water.

Time/Temperature Control for Safety Foods (TCS Foods) - (previously Potentially Hazardous Foods - PHF) means a food that has to be kept at certain temperatures to slow the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Potentially hazardous foods are often involved in foodborne illness outbreaks. They are usually high in moisture and protein.

Common potentially hazardous foods include meat, fish, poultry, sprouts, cut melons, cut leafy greens, cut tomatoes, garlic in oil mixtures, and cooked vegetables and starches.

Two-stage cooling method - means the two-stage procedure to forcefully cool hot food safely. Stage 1 is to cool food from 135°F to 70°F within two hours. Stage 2 is to finish cooling the food from 70°F to 41°F within an additional four hours.

Temporary food establishment - means a food establishment:
a) Operating at a fixed location, with a fixed menu, for not more than twenty-one consecutive days in conjunction with a single event or celebration, such as a fair or festival; or
b) Operating not more than three days a week at a fixed location, with a fixed menu, in conjunction with an approved, recurring, organized event, such as a farmers market.

USDA - means the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Variance - means a written document issued by the regulatory authority that authorizes a modification of one or more requirements of the food rule if, in the opinion of the regulatory authority, a health hazard or nuisance will not result from the modification.

Virus - means the smallest of the microbial contaminants. Viruses rely on a living host and do not grow in food. They are spread to food through poor personal hygiene, contaminated food, or contaminated water supplies.

Warewashing - means the cleaning and sanitizing of utensils and food-contact surfaces of equipment.

Wiping cloth - means a cotton cloth with finished edges. They are strong enough to be sanitized after each use and to be washed often.

Report Unsafe Food Handling Practices or Food-Borne Illness
Report Unsafe Food Handling Practices or Food-Borne Illness

Reporting unsafe practices and illnesses helps the health district identify potential food-borne disease outbreaks.

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